Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review - Nocturne by Syrie James

"From international bestselling author Syrie James comes a haunting and deeply romantic story of forbidden love that will steal your heart and never let you go.

When Nicole Whitcomb’s car runs off a Colorado mountain road during a blinding snowstorm, she is saved from death by a handsome, fascinating, and enigmatic stranger.

Snowbound with him for days in his beautiful home high in the Rockies, she finds herself powerfully attracted to him. But there are things about him that mystify her, filling her with apprehension.

Who is Michael Tyler? Why does he live alone in such a secluded spot and guard his private life so carefully? What secret—or secrets—is he hiding?

Nicole has secrets of her own and a past she is running from—but Michael understands her better than anyone she has ever known. Soon, she is falling as deeply in love with him as he is with her—a profoundly meaningful experience that is destined to change their lives forever.

As the sexual tension between them builds, however, the clues mount up. When Nicole learns her host’s terrifying secret, there is nowhere for her to run but into the blizzard raging outside, and Michael may be the only one who can save her life."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

If you're looking for the perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter's night, look no further than Nocturne by Syrie James. It is a wonderful love story with paranormal elements that is sure to entertain those who enjoy passionate romance, literature, and music.

Nicole Whitecomb's accident on a lonely Colorado road during a blizzard is witnessed by Michael Tyler, a reclusive man who resides in a moutaintop home. Left with no alternative but to go down and rescue the injured woman, he reluctantly brings her into his home to tend to her injuries.

The worsening road conditions and the wrecked condition of her car eliminates any possibility of leaving Michael's home any time soon. While Nicole is grateful for his help in rescuing her, his behavior is brusque and rude which makes her feel like a huge imposition. Indeed, he tells her quite bluntly that he rarely has visitors and demands his privacy. He leaves Nicole to fend for for herself and reminds her that certain areas of the house are off-limits. Even more strange, she finds only a very meager amount of food available in a kitchen that looks as if it's never been used.

Nicole thinks all of this, and the secretive nature of Michael, is very odd...yet he is an extremely good looking guy, intelligent,and cultured. She discovers he has a love of literature and they share an interest in classical music. Intrigued but well aware that all is not as it seems, Nicole makes a discovery about his true identity.....and little by little, the reasons for Michael's strange behavior and secretive nature are revealed. Each has inner wounds that they begin to share with one another, and their relationship develops into a very intense but forbidden love. Michael's passion for Nicole and his secret may well cost her her it a risk she is willing to take?

Syrie James has written a very compelling contemporary thriller with a bittersweet romance; I was left feeling hopeful that somehow, Michael and Nicole's love was meant to be.

4/5 stars

**Disclosure: Thank you to Elena Stokes @ Wunderkind PR and Vanguard Press for providing me with an advance copy of Nocturne for review.

Available January 4, 2011.

Title: Nocturne
Author: Syrie James
Published by Vanguard Press
281 pages
genre: fiction/contemporary romance/thriller

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011

There's fun news for a completely unique challenge in 2011 over at the fabulous Austenprose! Laurel Ann has announced the details of the exciting "Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011" featuring all of Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries! Besides reviews and contests on Austenprose, fellow Janeites can follow along with Stephanie Barron on her own website where she will discuss behind-the-scenes information about the writing and research involved in creating her Jane Austen sleuth. Sounds like a great challenge!

Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron:

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (1996)
Jane and the Man of the Cloth (1997)
Jane and the Wandering Eye (1998)
Jane and the Genius of the Place (1999)
Jane and the Stillroom Maid (2000)
Jane and the Prisoner of the Wool House (2001)
Jane and the Ghosts of Netley (2003)
Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy (2005)
Jane and the Barque of Frailty (2006)
Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (2010)
Jane and the Canterbury Tale (2011)

Time-line: The Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge runs January 1, through December 31, 2011.

Levels of participation: Neophyte: 1 – 4 novels, Disciple 5 – 8 novels, Aficionada 9 – 11 novels.

At present, I'm going to try to work through them all....we'll see how it goes. ;)

For full details and to sign up for the challenge, please visit Austenprose.

Are you in?

Oh, yeah? Who Says Girls Can't Write?

The Bronte sisters as you've never seen them.....

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Christmas Goodies!

Good morning! I hope everyone spent the last few days enjoying all the wonderful things that the Christmas season brings.....good times spent with family and friends. We had a very special Christmas this year with lots of family get-togethers, rich food, and way too much indulgence with chocolate and baked treats! Christmas morning brought pouring rain, howling wind, and freezing temps, but that just made us snuggle deeper under the blankets to catch some extra winks. We spent a quiet and blissful morning in our pj's, opening presents, sipping hot chocolate, and watching Christmas movies-- just perfect!

As usual, I asked Santa for nothing but books, and I guess I was pretty good this year as he left some wonderful things for me under the tree.

My shipment of Jean Plaidy books (seven of them) arrived from the UK in time for Christmas (yay!), so I've been ooohing and ahhhing over these gorgeous editions of The Plantagenet series. I can't wait to dive into them!

I received this lovely coffee table edition of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, annotated version.

And last but not least, I received a package just before Christmas from......Lauren Willig! She has lots of contests on her website, and I was one of the winners for one of her recent giveaways (winners would receive a Pink Carnation totebag). When the package arrived, it looked much too big for just a folded up totebag, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a sweet handwritten note from Lauren, a totebag, AND a signed copy of the trade paperback edition of The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, hot off the presses!

(Writing on tote: Swooning solves nothing.....speak loudly and carry a large parasol!)

Hope your holidays were filled with all good things.....and lots of good books!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Historical Fiction Challenge 2011

I love historical fiction and Historical Tapestry is a great blog, so I'm signing up for the severe bookaholism level (20 books) for the 2011 Historical Fiction Challenge. This challenge will run for the entire year, can include various forms of historical fiction, and can overlap with other challenges.

Here's my tentative list: (from my TBR pile)

l. The Greatest Knight - Elizabeth Chadwick (completed)
2. The Scarlet Lion - Elizabeth Chadwick (completed)
3. The Courts of Love: The Story of Eleanor of Aquitaine - Jean Plaidy
4. The Plantagenet Prelude - Jean Plaidy (completed)
5. The Secret Diaries of Anne Boleyn - Robin Maxwell
6. Here Be Dragons - Sharon Kay Penman
7. The Far Pavilions - M. M. Kaye
8. To Dance With Kings - Rosalind Laker
9. Island of the Swans - Ciji Ware (completed)
10. Child of the Northern Spring - Persia Wooley
11. Queen By Right - Anne Easter Smith (completed)
12. Nefertiti - Michelle Moran
13. The Countess and the King - Susan Holloway Scott (completed)
14. The King's Favorite (Nell Gwyn) - Susan Holloway Scott
15. Royal Harlot (The Countess of Castlemaine) - Susan Holloway Scott
16. The Queen's Confession - Victoria Holt
17. To Defy a King - Elizabeth Chadwick
18. To Be Queen - Christy English
19. Madame Tussaud - Michelle Moran (completed)

Please visit Historical Tapestry for full details of the reading challenge and a list of other bloggers that are participating. Happy historical fiction reading!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All I Want For Christmas....

"Along with the plays of William Shakespeare and the works of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen’s novels are among the most beloved books of Western literature. Pride and Prejudice (1813) was in Austen’s lifetime her most popular novel, and it was the author’s personal favorite. Adapted many times to the screen and stage, and the inspiration for numerous imitations, it remains today her most widely read book. Now, in this beautifully illustrated and annotated edition, distinguished scholar Patricia Meyer Spacks instructs the reader in a larger appreciation of the novel’s enduring pleasures and provides analysis of Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, Lady Catherine, and all the characters who inhabit the world of Pride and Prejudice.

This edition will be treasured by specialists and first-time readers, and especially by devoted Austen fans who think of themselves as Friends of Jane."



Besides peace and good health, I'm hoping this beautiful annotated edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice finds its way to my house. Hope Santa got the hint! ;)

What books are you hoping will be under your tree?

Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy, safe New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

"Edie is an only child of respectable if dull parents who, when she was growing up, did little to nurture her natural love of words or mystery.

But now, a letter that should have been delivered fifty years earlier arrives for her mother and sends Edie on a journey into the past. It takes her to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house in Kent, where the Blythe spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted as a thirteen-year-old child during World War II. The elder Blthye sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn't been the same since her fiance' jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother's past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst. The truth of what happened in "the distant hours" of the past have been waiting a long time for someone to find it. Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning an intricate web of mystery and suspense that will stay with the reader long after the last page."

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

"Hush...Can you hear him?
The trees can. They are the first to know that he is coming..."

from The True History of the Mud Man by Raymond Blythe

Eerie...haunting....suspenseful....sorrowful.....layer upon layer of mystery... Kate Morton's The Distant Hours just sucked me into the mournful tale of the three spinster Blythe sisters, isolated with their dark secrets and tormented pasts in the ancient castle of Milderhurst. They are the daughters of the famous author, Raymond Blythe, who wrote the frightening but immensely popular children's novel The True History of the Mud Man. Their past is riddled with unspeakable tragedy and long-buried secrets that would never be known to the world, until one day, in 1992, Edith Burchill's mother receives a long-forgotten letter from one of the castle's inhabitants. This twist of fate prompts Edie to visit Milderhurst, as her mother was once protected there as a child during the bombing of London during WWII. The reader is then taken on a roller-coaster of a ride through time, criss crossing the past and the present as the castle stones begin to whisper their secrets and slowly, ever so slowly, reveal the stories of the distant hours...lovers, affairs, secrets, death, madness, broken promises, nightmares, accidents...

Trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together is an exercise in futility, as the secrets are deep and multi-layered.

Read it. Get lost in it. Be prepared for the storm. And watch out...for the Mud Man.....he is coming.

Kate Morton is the author of The House at Riverton and The Forgotton Garden.

5/5 stars Highly recommended if you enjoy gothic goodness!

Title: The Distant Hours
Author: Kate Morton
562 pages
genre: gothic mystery

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Upcoming Release - Nocturne by Syrie James

It's always nice to get a newsletter from an author like Syrie James with a sneak peek at an upcoming release (January 2011). Syrie James has written wonderful historical fiction novels that I have enjoyed that have been well-researched....The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, and Dracula, My Love. Her latest, Nocturne, is a bit of a change as it is a contemporary thriller and it looks intriguing!

from Amazon:
"From international bestselling author Syrie James comes a haunting and deeply romantic story of forbidden love that will steal your heart and never let you go.

When Nicole Whitcomb’s car runs off a Colorado mountain road during a blinding snowstorm, she is saved from death by a handsome, fascinating, and enigmatic stranger.

Snowbound with him for days in his beautiful home high in the Rockies, she finds herself powerfully attracted to him. But there are things about him that mystify her, filling her with apprehension.

Who is Michael Tyler? Why does he live alone in such a secluded spot and guard his private life so carefully? What secret—or secrets—is he hiding?

Nicole has secrets of her own and a past she is running from—but Michael understands her better than anyone she has ever known. Soon, she is falling as deeply in love with him as he is with her—a profoundly meaningful experience that is destined to change their lives forever.

As the sexual tension between them builds, however, the clues mount up. When Nicole learns her host’s terrifying secret, there is nowhere for her to run but into the blizzard raging outside, and Michael may be the only one who can save her life."

Click here to go to Syrie's website and read an excerpt.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2010 - Wrap Up

Most of what I read for pleasure consists of historical fiction, so this challenge is great for me to whittle away at my collection of historical fiction, historical mysteries, and historical romances. Thanks to The Royal Reviews (and Alaine @ Queen of Happy Endings) for sponsoring the Historical Fiction Challenge for 2010 and motivating me to try a variety of new authors in the genre. I'm looking forward to continuing exploring more of these great historical fiction authors such as Elizabeth Chadwick, Sharon Kay Penman, M. M. Kaye, and Jean Plaidy, among others in 2011.

Here is a list, arranged alphabetically by author, of the books I read this year that fall under the category of historical fiction. My Top 10 Favorites of the year have been linked to the review.

HF = Historical Fiction
HM = Historical Mystery
HR = Historical Romance
** = TOP 10 FAVORITE in 2010 (links to review)

Alexander, Tasha - Dangerous to Know (HM)

Barron, Stephanie - Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (HM)

Carroll, Susan - The Dark Queen (HF)

Chadwick, Elizabeth - **For the King's Favor (HF)

Clare, Pamela - **Surrender (HR)

Donnelly, Jennifer -**The Winter Rose (HR)

Dunant, Sarah - The Birth of Venus (HF)

Duran, Meredith - Wicked Becomes You (HR)

Eagles, Cynthia Harrod - The Founding (HF)

Erskine, Barbara - **Lady of Hay (HF)

Fairview, Monica - The Other Mr. Darcy (HR)
The Darcy Cousins (HR)

Garwood, Julie - The Secret (HR)

Harper, Karen - Mistress Shakespeare (HF)

Heyer, Georgette - Devil's Cub (HR)
Arabella (HR)
The Unfinished Clue (HM)
Frederica (HR)


James, Syrie - Dracula, My Love (HR)

Kaye, M. M. - **Trade Wind (HF)

Kearsley, Susanna - **Mariana (HR)
The Shadowy Horses (HR)
Named of the Dragon (HR)
**The Winter Sea (HR)

Kleypas, Lisa - Then Came You (HR)

Kloester, Jennifer - Georgette Heyer's Regency World (Nonfiction)


McNaught, Judith - Once and Always (HR)
Almost Heaven (HR)

McNees, Kelly O'Connor - The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott (HF)

Moning, Karen Marie - To Tame a Highland Warrior (HR)

Montgomery, L. M. - The Blue Castle (HF)

Newark, Elizabeth - Jane Eyre's Daughter (HF)


Pargeter, Edith - The Heaven Tree Trilogy (HF)

Penman, Sharon Kay - The Sunne in Splendour (HF)

Peters, Ellis - A Morbid Taste for Bones (HM)

Peters, Elizabeth - **Crocodile on the Sandbank (HM)
The Curse of the Pharaoh (HM)

Plaidy, Jean - Murder Most Royal (HF)

Quinn, Julia - The Duke and I (HR)
Ten Things I Love About You (HR)

Raybourn, Deanna - Dark Road to Darjeeling (HR)
The Dead Travel Fast (HR)

Rice, Anne - Angel Time (HM)

Ross, Kate - Cut to the Quick (HM)
**A Broken Vessel (HM)


Trent, Christine - The Queen's Dollmaker (HF)

Turner, Nancy E. - These is My Words (HR)



Ware, Ciji - Wicked Company (HF)
A Cottage by the Sea (HF)

Willig, Lauren - **The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (HR) Loved the series!!
The Masque of the Black Tulip (HR)
The Deception of the Emerald Ring (HR)
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (HR)
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (HR)
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (HR)

Total Completed for Challenge = 54 books
Favorite Book of the Year........The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Year of the Pink Carnation

As I'm busy writing a wrap-up post for 2010 and selecting my top ten book picks, I realized that I would be remiss if I did not spotlight Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series and give it its own special post!

Now the series has been around for quite some time, but I began the year by reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and was hooked! It was such a delightful mix of Regency era mystery, romance, adventure and wit that I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next book. I spent the next few months happily immersed in spies, debutants, secret documents and deadly duels and read the entire series....and I'll finish the year with the newly released, The Mischief of the Mistletoe. Thus, it's been the Year of the Pink Carnation and deserves the special honor of "favorite series" for me in 2010.

I was so impressed with Lauren's writing style, I flew to Arizona to meet her at a book event sponsored by the Poisoned Pen. Book blogging buddy Julie from Outlandish Dreaming and I had a wonderful time chatting with Lauren and I must say, if you ever have a chance to attend one of her events, go! She is so genuinely friendly and funny and is a wonderful speaker!

(L-R) Joanne, Julie @ Outlandish Dreaming, Lauren Willig

So let's hear it for that demmed, elusive Pimpernel who served as Lauren's inspiration for her Pink Carnation series!

And just for fun, if you're a fan of the Scarlet Pimpernel and Willig's Pink Carnation series, you'll enjoy this... after all, isn't every girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jean M. Auel discusses The Land of Painted Caves

Many years ago, I read Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear and was fascinated by the prehistoric world of Ayla. I was mesmerized by Auel's ability to create a story that combined history, geography, ancient worship, medicine, and culture, all within a world that had not yet developed the use of spoken language. I loved the book so much, I've actually read parts of it several times over the years. I should have continued with the series, but other things took my attention (ahem -- Outlander) and I've never gone on to the sequels. Now that the of this next installment of this acclaimed series is finally being released (March 2011), I'm motivated to read more of Ayla's journey. Here's a clip of Auel discussing her thirty year relationship with the books.

Have you read any of the books in the series?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

"When India Selwyn Jones graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women in 1900, she is advised to set up her practice in a fashionable neighborhood. Instead, the idealistic India chooses to work in the East End, serving the poor. There, India meets Sid Malone, one of London's most notorious gangsters. Before long, an unpredictable, passionate, and bittersweet affair ensues."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

I enjoyed Donnelly's The Tea Rose very much, but I absolutely ADORED The Winter Rose! I had forgotten how much I had become emotionally invested in Fiona and Joe's story and the tragedies and triumphs of the Finnegan family, but it all came flooding back as I got lost in their turn-of-the-century London world once again. Joe and Fiona are now blissfully married with a child, and Fiona is busy supporting her husband's political career and her own involvement in her tea empire. While life has brought them much happiness, they will once again experience trying times, challenges, and a test of the strength of their bond.

The saga, however, focuses on my favorite character in the novel: aristocratic, idealistic graduate of medical school, India Selwyn Jones; she is a thoroughly likeable character who sets out to change the world of healthcare for women and children by serving the poor and destitute of Whitechapel. Her passion and dedication is sincere, but as a woman in the medical field, she faces an uphill battle and is appalled by the outdated medical practices of her male superior and his indifference to the suffering of women. Although she is engaged to Freddie Litton (an unscrupulous, power-hungry cad with political aspirations and an eye on India's wealth), she remains committed to medicine despite his insistence that she give up working once they are married.

India's entire world changes when a notorious underworld criminal, Sid Malone (remember his true identity from The Tea Rose?) is brought to her for medical help as he was near death from an accident. She works tirelessly to save him, and in the long process, becomes intrigued and drawn to him -- and he to India. I became totally consumed with the story of India and Sid.....she wants so desperately to save Sid from himself, to turn his life around, that is was just heartbreaking. And for once in his life, he has found someone who touches his heart. Such an unlikely pair....she, a doctor with a dream of opening a clinic for women to better the world, and Sid, the notorious criminal boss who is feared by all and wanted for murder, but will give the shirt off his back to warm a sleeping child in the trash....ah! such angst! Their star-crossed, bittersweet romance tugged at my heart and I found myself thinking about them even when I wasn't reading the book! How could their love survive such impossible odds?

The Winter Rose was an incredible novel, highly suspenseful and gripping, with richly drawn characters and an amazing, complex plot -- passion, revenge, murder, secrets, greed, vendettas, tragedy, and triumphs -- with an ending that took my breath away! Highly, highly recommended!

5/5 stars - LOVED it!

Title: The Winter Rose
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Hyperion Books
707 pages

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Time Travel Reading Challenge 2010 - Wrap Up

Many thanks to Alyce of At Home With Books for sponsoring the Time Travel Reading Challenge in 2010 -- definitely was right up my alley! Some of my top favorite books of the year were read as a result of the Time Travel Reading Challenge, so it was an extremely worthwhile challenge. Here is a list with a link to the reviews for my selections (click on the book title for the review).

Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine

The Exile (graphic novel) by Diana Gabaldon

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Angel Time by Anne Rice

A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware

Very much looking forward to continuing what I think is one of the most fascinating genres -- a blend of history, romance, and time travel -- in 2011!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware

"A remote cottage on the wild coast of Cornwall sounded to Blythe Barton Stowe like the perfect escape from the pain and humiliation of recent events in her Hollywood life. But soon she seems to be reliving a centuries-old tragedy, and the handsome owner of the shabby manor house on the hill appears vitally entwined in her destiny. As they unearth one shocking family secret after another, Blythe is forced to conclude that her intriguing neighbor is more than just an impecunious British gentleman bent on saving his ancestral home. And the impeccably honorable Lucas Teague begins to see Blythe as a lifeline in an otherwise bleak existence.

But is the unbridled attraction they're experiencing a dangerous distraction, or could it be strong enough to transcend the insurmountable complexities of time and place?"

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

A thoroughly enjoyable, complex and emotional story of one woman's journey to escape the pain of her high-profile Hollywood divorce.

Blythe Barton Stowe was a successful partner with her British-born movie producer husband, Christopher Stowe, and enjoyed fame and fortune with their box-office hits. But her world is rocked when she arrives unannounced at her husband's office and finds the cad with another woman....and the identity of the woman is an even bigger shock to Blythe! Devastated by the humiliation of a scandalous divorce and the paparazzi, Blythe escapes to a remote area in Cornwall to come to terms with many painful memories and events in her life. She rents a small cottage on the grounds of a large manor and meets the landlord, Lucas Teague, a man who has his own secrets and pain due to the recent death of his wife. These two have a long and difficult journey to find healing and happiness, but it is a realistic relationship with jealousies and insecurities and it kept me turning the pages to find out how they would work out their challenges.

There is also a timeslip element in this story as the modern day Blythe has visions of an ancestral story from the 1700's of Blythe Barton and her forced and violently unhappy marriage to Kit Trevelyan. The mystery and secrets of her ancestors were very compelling and tied the threads of the present-day story to the past. A Cottage by the Sea was a marvelous tale of betrayals, passion, mystery, family secrets, ancestral history, and romance.

4/5 stars

Title: a Cottage by the Sea
Author: Ciji Ware
Publisher: Sourcebooks
529 pages

Favorite Period Dramas

Mount TBR

Joanne's to-read book montage

On a Highland Shore
A Light on the Veranda
The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile
The Edwardians
Maisie Dobbs
Howards End
Lady's Maid
Instruments Of Darkness
When Maidens Mourn
Where Shadows Dance
What Remains of Heaven
Where Serpents Sleep
Why Mermaids Sing
When Gods Die
Before Ever After
The Sugar Queen
Garden Spells
After the Night

Joanne's favorite books »